Kennedy Chandler was on the receiving end of some criticism after falling to the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft. Spending just one season at the University of Tennessee, Vols fans expressed their discontent with Chandler’s decision after his draft night slip. However, it would take only 12 days for Chandler to prove those knee-jerk narratives to be foolish.
Projected as mid-to-late first rounder in a draft class devoid of talent at point guard, Chandler’s decision to turn pro after his freshman season at the University of Tennessee felt like an easy choice at the time. After falling to the second round, Vols fans wondered aloud if Chandler had cost himself money by turning pro prematurely.
WOW. this is going to become more and more common. and so much for the he woulda been better off goin back to school crowd https://t.co/mCmDabJQfK— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) July 5, 2022
Those murmurs were quickly put to rest 12 days following the draft. Chandler’s gent Ryan Davis finalized the four-year, $7.1 million deal during halftime of the Grizzlies’ first Summer League game.
Chandler’s Summer League debut ended in a Grizzlies win as Chandler stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, four assists, four rebounds, four steals, and three blocks. He even committed some Vol-on-Vol crime, ripping Philadelphia’s Jaden Springer in a game-sealing steal.
Chandler’s offensive prowess was on display last winter, averaging 13.9 PPG, shooting 46.4% from the field and 38.3% from three as a freshman. It was his tenacity on the defensive end that was thought to have vaulted Chandler up draft boards. He finished second in the SEC with 2.2 steals per game, proving that he could hold his ground on both ends of the floor.
Kennedy Chandler with the game winning steal. He finishes the game with 8 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. He was so impactful on both ends of the floor. Said this before, he’s one of the best defensive playmakers at 6’0” I’ve ever scouted. pic.twitter.com/b80JfCaEZ7— Global Scouting (@GlobalScouting_) July 6, 2022
As with every draft, it’s not always about when a player is taken, but where they are taken. Memphis is the perfect landing spot for Chandler. Not only did he grow up in Memphis, but the situation inside the locker room could not be any better.
The Grizzlies’ roster is littered with young talent, playing with energy and effort on both ends of the court. Chandler’s strength in the pick-and-roll also plays right into what Memphis likes to do offensively.
Kennedy Chandler showed what makes him intriguing as a NBA point guard prospect with his speed, creativity, vision, perimeter shooting, and ability to make reads out of PNR, finishing with 19 points and 9 assists in Tennessee's NCAA tournament loss to Michigan. pic.twitter.com/KvnPGt5CNS— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 20, 2022
Not only will Chandler get to learn behind Ja Morant, but the team also re-signed backup point guard Tyus Jones to a two-year deal. With Morant and Jones handling the point guard duties, Chandler will have the luxury of time as he develops without having to worry about being forced into a significant role as rookie.
By falling to 38th overall, the door for criticism creaked open. But Chandler really did not have much left to prove at the college level. His slide in the draft is likely attributed to his size, standing at 6’0”. Unless he was to experience a growth spurt in his sophomore season, it was unlikely for Chandler to ever receive the first-round lottery cash some were apparently expecting.
Featured image via Nathan Ray Seebeck – USA TODAY Sports